T Nation

Beginner Program for My Goals


Hey guys,

I bought the 5/3/1 the simplest and most effective system for raw strength and after reading it I am not sure which one of the templates outlined in the book or online are best suited to me.

I am 5 foot 9, 93kg (205lbs) and I would guess around 35% body fat.

I am a novice and have some preexisting problems, a shoulder impingement and some poor ankle flexion and mobility.

I want to compete in raw powerlifting in a few years but I also want to improve my body composition and get healthy. I am not sure how to set up my training, as a beginner I don't know how much volume on accessory lifts will impede my progress or how little volume can be done on the big lifts without not getting enough training on them to progress.

I have gained around 60 pounds in a year due to injury, being a lazy bastard and allowing myself to enter sloth mode due to having girlfriend and not having to look good.

My long term goals are to join a raw powerlifting federation and my shorter term goals are to get stronger and start looking bigger and leaner.

I have set up a nutrition template which is high in protein and moderate to high in carbohydrate and fat, calories at maintenance to carry out a two year recomposition.

Would this be a good program to run for a good foundation of strength and muscle or is it too much volume? Plus only doing the main movements once a week seems a bit too low to make much progress, would BBB b a better option?

I am looking for a mix of getting stronger for future powerlifitng but over the next few years build a base and get some big arms, a big yoke and a large back and wheels

The back movements will be changed for chin-ups and then weighted chin-ups when I am able to do them.


DEADLIFT - 5/3/1




Take what I say with a grain of sand; I've only been lifting seriously for a couple months now. In my experience BBB is a great option if you're looking to build muscle and get in extra form work in aswell. Add in lat pulldowns or assisted chin ups/negatives in between your pressing sets (as is recommended by Jim) and your back will grow nicely. As for only doing the lifts once a week: you can offset the bbb assistance work (the 5x10) portion with the opposite upper body/lower body lift.

Squat with deadlift 5x10
Bench with OHP 5X10
Deadlift with squat 5x10
OHP with bench 5x10

Use some kind of row variation of upper body days and abs on lower body days for the third exercise. The third assistance exercise can always be switched every couple of cycles for lacking/weak body parts as you see fit.

The amount of different exercises you have for each day is just unneccesary as doing the main compound lifts for a total of 50 reps a workout will be plenty to build muscle. As time goes on you can add more exercises as you see fit. And there's always the BBB challenge if you feel like some real hard work


There is a 5/3/1 for beginners template in the first two editions. Check that out.


Recomposition at 35% BF will not work. You're hormone levels are screwed up now for muscle building. I've tried it anyway... two years wasted. Trust me, lose the fat first, build the muscle second.
Do the main lifts 531 with one set FSL. Superset BP with rows, P with chins, DL with abs, SQ with back raises. The rest of your training time should be conditioning. Follow Jim's advice on eating to lose weight. It's in the books and it works.


After reading a lot of posts on this and various other forums from big and strong people I have seen most of the ones I want to emulate say pretty much this:

Don't go into a large deficit, start recomposition by having calories as high as possible and adjusting calories by the week depending on weight lost while weighing yourself the same time every morning. Going too low too fat will wreck your metabolism and cause you maintenance to go right down meaning to lose the last 20-20 pounds will mean going even lower calorie and end up with you being skinny fat.

Don't go low carb, go high protein and moderate carb and fat.

Don't do cut and bulks unless you are a bodybuilder, if fat slowly lose fat while adding muscle which is possible due to already stored fat.

I am about to go and buy a scale and will be weighing myself every monday morning.

I am going to stick with the program because for now I am most concerned with body composition and building a bit of lean body mass while dropping some fat. Nothing crazy just getting started.


Congrats on making the decision to doing things right and making a change. I'm a big believer in "doing things the right way, all the time" rather than trying to do the "8 weeks to a better body" BS. One fosters a positive habit, the other promises a quick fix that loses momentum because its simply full of shit. Think fad diets, liquid diets, etc.

So start with this basic line-up:

Main lift
Some kind of FSL work (1 AMRAP set, 5x5, 50 rep challenge, etc)
2-3 assistance movements (choose from the Wendler 6)

Don't do jokers. Waste of your time at this point.

So do the above 2-4 times a week.

Now pick some kind of conditioning work. Several kinds, if possible. Do this 3-7 days a week.
Now do the Defranco Agile 8. 7 times/week
Do the protein, veg/fruit then eat carbs eating plan. I outlined this many times. Easy to follow. No stupid dieting. And don't cut calories in an effort to "lose weight". Build muscle! Don't eat away at it.

Good luck. You won't need luck if you have disclipline and common sense.


Hey Jim!

I was not expecting an answer from the guy who created the program, thats awesome.

There is nothing in my 5/3/1 book about FSL so I had to google it and it seems to be you do your main lift sets and once you do your AMRAP set you drop down to the weight you were using two sets ago and hit that, I see a lot of people using a 5x5 for this which seems good.

Based on my current TM using the heavier option outlined in the book this would mean I do the following on week one:

Military press

5 X35KG


5 X90KG

Bench press

5 X50KG


5 X57.5KG

I am using the heavier option because otherwise my LSF sets would be just doing the bar with albs on each side and bench press and the other LSF sets would be crazy light in weight.


This seems a lot better now I've put a routine together with your advice. Thanks again man!

i can't do dips or chin-ups yet so I will have to wait until I can do bodyweight movements before choosing assistance excesses from the wendler 6. HLR and hypers are in the routine though.


Seriously, building muscle requires calorie excess. Loosing fat requires calorie deficit. You can't have both at the same time.
You don't need a fad diet or a large deficit to loose fat. And you don't need 10000 calories to bulk. But eating at maintenance will get YOU nowhere. Recomp can work if you're lean, below 12%. You're too fat. Focus on one thing and you'll accomplish it faster than trying to get lean, big and strong all at the same time.

I hadn't looked at the weights you posted, but if that's what you're lifting you will definately NOT build muscle. You won't even need maintenance calories to get stronger.


I do not mean to be rude but unless you look and lift like I want to, and can show it, I am not seeking your advice, especially not your continued insistence on offering me advice in spite of me respectfully declining it and it being, as I said, at odds with the great advice from Jim whose practical experience and results clearly outweigh both of us on the matter.

I don't think beginners should be offering advice to even newer beginners in general.

As for your claims that fat people can not lose fat and gain muscle:

A 1997 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise investigating the effects of strength training and aerobic exercise on body composition in a group of overweight, sedentary adult males. The men were randomly assigned to two groups: a cardio-only group, and a cross-training group that performed both cardiovascular and resistance exercise. Each group trained three days per week for 14 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, the group that combined cardiovascular with resistance exercise was indeed able to lose fat (16.3 pounds) while simultaneously gaining muscle (9.5 pounds). (1)

Another 2007 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that showed that older men and women (36 in total with an average age of 61), who did strength training three times per week for 12 weeks, gained an average of 4 pounds of muscle mass and lost over 4 pounds of fat. (2)

By now youâ??re surely saying to yourself, â??sure these two above studies demonstrate that both sedentary and older individuals can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, but what about for younger, active individuals?â?? Well, the answer to that question is: Yes! Thereâ??s also evidence showing that younger, active individuals can also lose fat and gain muscle at the same time!

A 1998 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology took thirty physically active healthy men (average age of 20 and an average body fat of 12%) and randomly assigned to one of the following training groups: a cardio only group, a resistance training only group, and a combined cardio and resistance training group. All groups trained three times per week (3). At the conclusion of the study, the cardio group lost around 4 pounds of fat and they also lost a small amount of muscle, whereas the resistance training only group gained around 5 pounds of muscle while also losing almost 2 pounds of fat. And, the combined (cardio + resistance) training group got the best results: They gained 7 pounds of muscle while losing almost 6 pounds of fat.

Additionally, these results arenâ??t just in younger men, as a 2010 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that young women (average age of 23) were able to gain 4.2 pounds of muscle and lose 3.5 pounds after 12-weeks of resistance exercise. (4)

In short, based on the scientific evidence, not on arbitrary opinions, both men and women, younger and older, active and sedentary can absolutely build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Itâ??s well established that fat loss is determined by burning more calories each day than you consume. The concept that you need to be in a caloric deficit in order to lose fat isnâ??t personal opinion nor is it up for debate by so-called diet gurus. This is the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed (conservation of energy), only changed from one form to another. Now donâ??t get it twisted, as this isnâ??t to discount that some calories are more nutrient dense than others. Weâ??ve all heard the term empty calories before, but one can still be well nourished and over-fed. So as important as it is to eat high quality, nutrient-dense foods, one can still gain fat from eating â??healthy,â?? if they eat too many calories relative to what theyâ??re burning.

With that said, itâ??s worth mentioning that just as a caloric deficit is needed to lose fat, a caloric surplus is needed to build muscle. So, it stands to reason that one canâ??t build muscle while losing fat, which has led some people to hold this (false) notion. However, keep in mind that stored fat is stored energy, so those stored fat calories are available for the body to use as fuel for the muscle building process. No! Your body canâ??t turn fat into muscle or vice versa. Fat is fat and muscle is muscle. But, if youâ??re overweight, it can use your stored energy (i.e., stored fat is the caloric surplus) to fuel the muscle building process when that fuel isnâ??t coming from additional food intake. This is still consistent with the first law of thermodynamics, as the research shared above clearly demonstrated.


  1. Wallace MB, et al. Effects of cross-training on markers of insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Sep;29(9):1170-5.

  2. Iglay HB, et al. Resistance training and dietary protein: effects on glucose tolerance and contents of skeletal muscle insulin signaling proteins in older persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1005-13.

  3. Dolezal BA. Et al. Concurrent resistance and endurance training influence basal metabolic rate in nondieting individuals. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Aug;85(2):695-700.

  4. Josse AR, et al. Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1122-30.


Good luck. Remember that for the first several months you won't notice much of a difference besides your lifts going up, but your cloths will probably looser at the waist and tighter at the chest. Just do everything Jim suggests and do yourself a favor and buy beyond 5/3/1.


My last post here.
1 Your quoted studies still say you will need to be in deficit to loose the fat.
2 Advice from someone who tried what you are about to do isn't valid?
3 Read the book again, when Jim quit powerlifting he was fat. What was his first goal? Losing the fat.


Dude you are trying to win a non existent prize here.

Your points:

  1. "your quoted studies say you will need to be in a defect to lose the fat"

1A. Yes I realise that, as stated in this thread multiple times I will start with maintenance calories and monitor my caloric intake, scale weight and waist, pant fit and adjust my calories accordingly. This is the point of a recoup as explained by Lyle Mcdonald etc.

To quote from the article :

"The above science also tells us that the more fat and less muscle one has, the greater oneâ??s ability to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. This is important to note, because if youâ??re already fairly lean, a large caloric deficit will generally make you lose some muscle even with strength training and adequate protein (5,6). So, the goal, for everyone, especially when youâ??re not overweight but just looking to lose that extra bit of fat, is to make sure your diet delivers plenty of protein and that youâ??re emphasizing regular strength training."

As I stated earlier the reason for starting with maintenance calories is to start with the highest caloric level and very gradually lower, I can lose weight slowly moving more into a deficit and my fat stores can be used as energy for the building of new lean mass as the studies show. Keeping calories high and adding lean body mass eels a healthy metabolism, reduces the chances of ruining strength progress and increases my ever rising maintenance caloric level because of the rising LBM as I also lose fat.

This means that say if my goal is to be 185lbs at 12% body fat I can reach that over a long period of effort and solid dieting and heavy lifting and conditioning keeping my calories as large as possible and my metabolism healthy, losing the fat slower while gaining lean body mass thus increasing my maintenance level means I can cut to 185lbs at 12% body fat over a long period of time on say 2700 calories (not an actual figure but representative of the calorie difference qualitative to if I just did a lose the fat cut) or I can start deep not a deficit and end up needing to reduce my calories to 1200cals as my metabolism, training capacity and ability to recover and build lbm are shot to shit.

  1. "advice from someone who tried what you did is not valid?"

2A. Correlation does not prove causation, you might of not tried hard, naturally have a hard time with gaining muscle or losing fat, you might of planned wrong, or made mistakes and lacked consistency. Your own bad results do not refute the scientific studies or personal experience of fat guys who have done a recomp and have had terrific results.

3."Read the book again, when Jim quit powerlifting he was fat. What was his first goal? Losing the fat."

3A. Excerpt from the book:

I remember thinking to myself that if I ever reached a point in my life where I had to walk to get
exercise, it might be time to clean out my ears with a gun.
Fortunately, I didnâ??t follow through with my plans. The point, however, is this: I was fat and out of shape. And even though Iâ??d recently squatted 1000 pounds, I really wasn't strong. I couldn't move, and I couldnt use this strength for anything other than waddling up to a monolift and squatting.
A few months later, Iâ??d managed to lose about 25 pounds. Simply walking and not eating as much helped me out immensely. I was able to move again. I could run, sprint, jog, jump rope or do just about anything."

Nothing Jim did is at odds with what I am doing, he lost fat and got swole and one could argue stronger in a lot of ways building up to very strong raw numbers while also getting conditioned and lean and healthy. In fact the overall great advice Jim offered me seemed to be very consistent with the idea I had of slowly doing a recoup while dieting smartly and steadily and training my arse off.

Anyway thanks to everyone for the help, this thread has been of tremendous help.


"Everybody cool out - COOL out!" - Will Ferrell as Neil Diamond

You can train however you want - it's not my business how you train or how anyone else trains. It has been my experience that setting good habits (eating, training, stretching, conditioning, etc.) and maintaining good habits - ALWAYS trumps fads. People can argue with that (and they will) but I believe in one wants to do something, it is best to do it right.


Here's my story, for what it's worth...

In Dec 2012 I was 194lbs and probably around 30% BF.

Today I'm 196lbs and probably around 20%. I've lost two inches off my stomach and one inch off my hips.

I do 5/3/1 and conditioning. I eat when I'm hungry.

The end.


in that time frame, did you train 5/3/1 or have you gone through multiple programs?


I initially did 8 weeks of Starting Strength, spent three weeks trying to make Texas Method work (wasn't flexible enough to work around my work schedule), then switched to 5/3/1.


So this is what you generally recommend for someone who is new or fairly new to 5/3/1 and has no idea where or how to start?